This piece originally appeared on NBCNews.com
President-elect Trump’s immigration enforcement is about to come to a city near you, well, at least if you find yourself in one of the 300 sanctuary cities across the country.
What is a sanctuary city? There’s not one official definition but it’s basically municipalities that don’t alert federal authorities about people in their city who lack legal status or go out of their way to find them.
Beyond the shorthand of what side of the immigration debate you’re on—if you want to build the wall or prefer comprehensive immigration reform—most of us aren’t versed in the policy technicalities of how extensively local and federal immigration law enforcement authorities work together. It’s not a one-size-fits all concept.
Nevertheless, President-elect Trump on his first day in office will cancel all federal funding to sanctuary cities. Just to name two of the biggies, there’s Los Angeles receiving half a billion and New York with $10 billion in federal funding.
President-elect Trump’s punishment to sanctuary cities is both steep and nonsensical.
To begin, sanctuary cities are not a shield against deportation. If a person is undocumented and resides in one of the 300 sanctuary entities, they do not get a “pass.” Federal immigration law enforcement can come to a person’s home, work, you name it, and execute a deportation order anywhere in the United States.
In fact under the Obama administration, a record 2.5 million deportations took place — regardless of what city the undocumented immigrant resided in.
As part of the Department of Homeland Security’s Priority Enforcement Program, every person booked in a city or county jail will have their prints run through an FBI and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) database — sanctuary city or not. So within seconds, ICE can know whether an undocumented person who has a criminal record is in custody in Anytown, USA.
Where the technical murkiness comes in is whether and how long a jail keeps an undocumented person that ICE has flagged from the fingerprint check.
According to the Priority Enforcement Program, ICE can issue a deportation request to the jail to keep an undocumented person in custody beyond their release date so that federal immigration authorities can retrieve him or her. Sanctuary cities will not hold individuals past their release date and non-sanctuary cities will.
Put differently, sanctuary cities are saying to the federal government – you do your law enforcement job, we’ll do ours. Sanctuary cities see immigration as a federal level issue. In using local cops or sheriffs to enforce federal immigration laws, cities see a loss of trust by immigrant communities. The idea of community policing goes out the window
Then there’s the dollars and cents part of it. The most direct impact is on local budgets burdened in carrying out a job that is not theirs. The indirect impact discourages the economic vibrancy of immigrant friendly cities. It is well documented that immigrant dense cities do better economically than their non-immigrant dense counterparts. We know that immigrants are the most entrepreneurial group of individuals in the country and because of that they are a vital economic engine. It’s not a coincidence that California and New York — with cities that drive our economy — have sanctuary cities.
Setting an immigrant unfriendly mood is not good for business. And as our “businessman president” you’d think Trump would celebrate not punish entrepreneurship.
No one disputes the need to bring criminals to justice, whether they are citizens or not. But the idea that going after sanctuary cities will get rid of the country’s criminal element and curb immigration at the same time is bunk. As I’ve argued previously, if Trump is serious about immigration he needs to go after the demand, namely employers who hire undocumented immigrants. And as to the apprehension of undocumented criminals, nothing is stopping the federal government from already doing that.